Today Microsoft celebrates the International Mother Language Day alongside UNESCO, with the goal to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism across the world. Advancements in technology to support and preserve languages create greater awareness of the linguistic and cultural traditions celebrated throughout the world, which in turn promote understanding,tolerance and dialogue.
With the proliferation of digital content on the web, mobile devices and desktop applications, there is an increasing demand to communicate and collaborate in multiple languages. Helping enable business, communities, and consumers to communicate and collaborate across language barriers through technology innovation is a core focus for the Microsoft Translator team.
Today, I am pleased to announce the launch of two new officially supported languages: Malay and Urdu. These two languages join the other languages already supported by the Microsoft Translator platform and Bing Translator. Malay is spoken by over 200M people worldwide in countries ranging from Malaysia to Brunei. Urdu is spoken by over 100M people worldwide and is spoken by large populations residing in the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East and countries in Europe and North America. It is the national language of Pakistan, and the official language of several states in India.
A year ago, on the last International Mother Language Day, we announced the release of Hmong as part of a close engagement between Microsoft and the Hmong community - a small but significant step towards empowering businesses and organizations to tap into the power of Microsoft’s language technology. Like Hmong, the development of Urdu is the result of a community effort shepherded by the Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi, India) under the leadership of Dr.Girish Nath Jha, and Microsoft, utilizing the powerful Microsoft Translator Hub customization tools.
In addition to the launch of these new languages; we are also rolling out several new improvements to our platform, customization tools and language quality. See the release notes for this release in our forum here.
We have seen some great momentum with both the business and language communities for the Translator Hub. Through the Hub, users are able to bring better and specialized translation quality to established languages, as well as the many native languages of the world that are not yet supported by major translation providers which goes to the core of supporting the goals of Mother Language Day. Urdu is the latest language community benefiting from the availability of the Hub.
Developers and webmasters can begin leveraging these languages today on their sites by installing the Microsoft Translator Widget and users can utilize the collaborative features of the widget to provide alternate translations to improve the translation quality. Additionally, if you are passionate about the community development efforts around Urdu or other languages that we support and want to become involved in the efforts, please contact us.
Commemorating the International Mother Language Day, Microsoft Local Language Program (LLP), also announced the support of 13 extra languages to our range of Language Interface Packs (LIPs), bringing the total number of languages supported by Windows 8 and Office to 108. Learn more at the LLP web site.
- Vikram Dendi, Director of Product Management, Microsoft/Bing Translator
This is the year of machine learning and big data. Whether it is predicting political results, supercharging your Excel spreadsheets, helping map queries to intent in Search, or even customizing a translation engine to best fit your content – these research areas are playing a starring role in transforming technology and productivity.
A couple of weeks back, at the 14th annual Computing in the 21st Century Conference, attendees saw a glimpse of where else these technologies are taking us – and loved it. Rick Rashid, who heads up Microsoft Research worldwide, went up on stage and in the span of eight sentences, got the 2000+ strong crowd up on their feet and cheering. It was a moment where technology was indistinguishable from magic – and one that would spur science fiction writers to start thinking of bigger challenges for researchers to tackle :)
Watch the video to see for yourself:
A combination of powerful technologies were employed to make this amazing demonstration possible: Deep Neural Network based processing combined with high performance computing allowed a significant jump in accuracy of speech recognition. The Microsoft Translator technology that you use each day was customized to best fit Rick’s speech content. New speech synthesis technology that allows personalization of acoustic characteristics was able to create “Rick’s voice” in a language he does not speak. You can read Rick’s blog post here.
Some of these technologies are already available today, especially the industry-leading translation (Microsoft Translator) with customization capabilities (Translator Hub). If you are a Windows Phone user, you have been enjoying the most innovative translation app on any phone for over a year now, which includes an early speech translation experience that has been tuned for travel situations. The audio output that you hear on Bing Translator website uses some of the newer speech synthesis engines coming out of our Speech research. Deep-Neural-Net research is also behind our audio/video indexing service – MAVIS, which is available commercially.
The excitement that has been rippling across the web in response to this demonstration is an indicator of how much everyone wants to experience this ‘magic’. There is much work to do, but you will see the benefits of this amazing research in our products in our future releases.
Vikram Dendi Director Microsoft/Bing Translator & Microsoft Research
We are happy to announce the release of our English <-> Polish translation engine! Some of you have been asking us about Polish translation, and we’re excited to deliver for you! We’ve also made some quality improvements to our Spanish, French, German, and Italian engines – if you’ve tried these languages out in the past, give them another try and let us know what you think.
One more thing I wanted to mention - we try out various features from time to time, as part of our commitment to offer new ways for our users to take advantage of translation. You might notice that the link to get a professional translation has been taken down as part of our current release. We launched this service back in June 2008. This experimental feature has run its course (for now) and we are evaluating the experience to see how we could make it better. Stay tuned to this blog for updates, and of course your feedback is always appreciated!
Team: Localization Tools and Services Solution: Readiness, Internal Communications, Customer Support The Localization Tools and Services team provides translation and localization services to a wide variety of business units throughout Microsoft. Focusing mainly on the localization of software user interfaces, they have localized software ranging from Universal Store apps to Microsoft OneDrive to Windows Azure. In order to provide faster turnaround for the business units they support, the team created an online agile localization application known as Reach. Reach allows translators and testers to localize content more quickly and with greater accuracy than with human translation alone. Reach integrates Translator's machine translation technology to deliver just-in-time translation results for translators and testers. The application also includes a downloadable tool that is able to insert translations into files, allowing users to have access to machine translation when working offline. "The MS Translator API was a straightforward way for us to quickly add valuable machine translation [MT] results to multiple stages of our localization workflow. The MS Translator service handles large translation volumes without any problem and can be easily customized to use different MT domains." - Andrew, Program Manager II, Localization Tools and Services
Read more Translator Solutions in Action at www.aka.ms/TranslatorSolutionsInAction
Most of you know that we released the first publicly available Haitian Creole statistical machine translation engine last week and have been hard at work making it even better. I am pleased to announce since last night we rolled out two updates to the system and our site which bring several improvements:
1) More training data = better translations. We trained the system on even more training data (including data that we hand translated) which should reflect in better translations. We are nowhere near done yet, and we will continue to work on this.
2) Updating the AJAX API and widget. The Translator widget (and the underlying AJAX API) now accurately reflect “Haitian Creole” as the language selected in their UI. This was primarily a user interface fix (the Haitian Creole translation itself worked fine). You can use the widget to deliver any webpage in any of the languages we support (including Haitian Creole).
3) Please don’t forget the broad set of APIs and webmaster resources that are available for those that are building applications and websites to help with the relief efforts. There are several efforts underway to develop mobile apps (using the SOAP or HTTP API) and websites (using the AJAX API). If you are working on something along those lines, leave a link to your app/site in the comments and I will make sure to surface them up here so people can find them more easily.
We will continue to work on improving the system and we wish to thank everyone in the community that has been instrumental in helping us get this much requested translation engine out of the door. Stay tuned for more announcements!
Also, let me once again point to a resource where you can help with the broader Haiti relief efforts. Please help in any way you can!
Update (1/31): The DIPLOMAT project at CMU in the 1990s was an earlier project to create a Haitian Creole system for DOD/DARPA. As I mentioned in our earlier blog post, our system makes use of CMU’s data from that project.
- Vikram Dendi, Senior Product Manager, Microsoft Translator